San Juan, – The Secretary of Education of Puerto Rico, Julia Keleher, denied today in a statement that the lead agency is pressuring school directors to submit false information in the Restart fund claims process.
Following the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Department of Education (DE) received 589 million dollars from that program, money that has been used in several lines within the permissible activities, according to the statement.
Of that allocation, the DE has used part for the purchase of books and educational materials (84 million), acquisition of security cameras for school sites (24 million), purchase of paint and jobs in schools (4 million) and hiring of school nurses (14 million), among other services.
“The Department of Education has worked in a serious and responsible manner with the use and management of federal funds that have been allocated following the passage of hurricanes through the island,” said the official.
“This assignment has been made in full compliance with the specifications and requirements imposed, and we have instructed our directors throughout the process so that they can make claims complying with the specifications,” Keleher said.
Part of the fund distribution process has required the agency to train and guide staff on the procedures for claims in those schools that have been affected in the emergency.
The DE asked the schools for a needs study to identify areas that require attention.
According to the result of that analysis, the directors must prepare a plan where they request the necessary materials and equipment with due justifications.
Likewise, the agency instructed the directors to integrate the justifications as part of the claim.
In the same way, Education provided the claims options to the directors, who serve as guides in the management of claims.
Some of the options were damages caused by floods or trees, leaks, structural damage, loss of educational materials or equipment in general, among others.
Also, the alternative was offered where the directors could report on any particular damage related to the emergency that was not on the list of options offered by the DE and that complied with the federal program.
Regarding the complaint about the funds of Title 1 that have not reached the schools, the secretary clarified that, since October, most of the schools received the budgets that are administered by each school director, once they present their work plans and these are approved by the agency.
This year the agency suffered a reduction of state funds of nearly $ 100 million, which has required the ED to identify other funds that may be allocated to the schools. Some of these are those of the Restart program.
“The DE is in the best position to guide any legislator who has any doubts about the scope and use of the federal funds assigned to the agency,” said the headline (EFEUSA).